How Not to Write a Book in 7 Easy-to-Screw-Up Steps

October 11, 2012

So, there you are. You have a brilliant idea that is just chewing its way out of your skull and you have decided to sit down and finally write it. Great for you! Fortunately, there is a billion dollar industry that is just dying to tell you how to accomplish your goal of being a Stephanie-Meyers-esque gajillionaire in just 10 easy steps.

But, because I am your friend, I am about to tell you the truth. You are going to do it all wrong.

Believe me, I know. So far, I am pretty sure I have done everything wrong that you can possibly do wrong when you are trying to write a book. From procrastination to self-editing to reading rough drafts out loud, I am the poster child for the saga of the never-published story.

If you do the things I am about to tell you, it is likely that you will not only have a book that sits, molding in your desk drawer, but that you will possibly turn to engineering to avoid any semblance of creative pursuits again.

1. Don’t Plan. Anything.

Planning is for weenies!! Why would I want to write a book where I know how it will turn out?


There are probably brilliant people out there who just jump into storyland and it takes them where they want to go, much like a well-trained seeing-eye dog. As for me, my seeing-eye dog happens to be blind and enamored with car bumpers. To wit, I write until I don’t know what happens and then eat cookies until I feel better. It tastes great, but I have had to resort to much more spandex in my clothing than I previously thought possible, post-1995.

2. Edit While You Go

The problem with writing stories is that first drafts all suck. No, seriously. If I am working on a story and realize that I just wrote something horrible along the lines of “See Dick run. See Jane hit Dick with a hammer.” I stop, reformat my page, write something better, and then change the font 17 times to see if I can make it more meaningful-looking. (I have a fonting problem, I admit)

Really good writers (people I have heard about, but never actually met), actually keep writing even when they are sucking. The ultimate goal is to put words on paper. If you spend your first draft writing time worrying about whether on not you should use a colon or semicolon to introduce a quote, you will murder your story in cold blood. It’s only a matter of time before the Karma Police find out that you did it and put you in Guilt Prison for eternity.

Instead, I am pretty sure you are just supposed to press on. It’s better to write something horrid, make a note to burn the chapter, and then keep going rather than commit narraticide. Story killers also don’t have a lot of street cred in most prisons. Just chew on that morsel of truth.

3. Don’t Take Notes

Silly writers. Of course I don’t take notes on my own story. I WROTE IT! I AM GOD TO MY STORY!!

The truth is, robot-writer, most of us are human. Like other humans, we have squishy material in our skulls called brains. These brains are mostly full of recipes for cereal-treats and trivia about Star Trek. Because of this, we forget stuff a lot. Even stuff we make up. You don’t believe me? Watch a re-run of “Cheaters.”

Anyhoos. The point is, it is much better to keep a running list of stuff that you made up than not to. If you do, you can easily look up the name of the hobgoblin that killed your main character’s cat, Muffy. You will be able to write quickly and move on to the next part of the story. If you do not, you will spend precious excited-writing time looking up words that you made up at the beginning of the story.

Even worse, you say to yourself, “Ah. I’ll just fix that later.” Then, you totally forget to fix it later and the world stops revolving and is eaten by sun monsters. No, wait. That’s a dream I once had. Okay, so it might not be a big deal, but you will look like a dork and your book might not get published.

4. Wait for Inspiration to Write

Hmm. I know that you are much like me. In order to write, you consult the horoscope, test the wind, perhaps you wait for a particularly lucky time of the month. Bollocks. The best writers are the ones who buckle down and write, for better or worse, every day. Remember the whole planning thing? If you’ve done a little planning, this should be a very effective way to complete your book. If you haven’t planned, you will spend your “writing time” staring into the void and thinking about how teaching is really more suited to your personality anyways.

Don’t be that guy. I am already that guy.

5. Procrastinate

“But,” you whine, “it’s so hard. I don’t know what to write. I have other things to do that are more important.” Blah, blah, blah. Everything you vomit forth from your complain-stomach is just an excuse to do something that you are worried you won’t be any good at. Or, maybe, you are worried you will be good at it. Or that you will write something that will embarrass you and your family forever and then the sun monsters will eat you.


The point is, you have to make it a priority. Your book is your creation. It is a child that you are choosing to create, to form from your own blood and sinew. It requires time, preparation, determination and love. I think that if you and I choose to nurture our writing, instead of shoving it in the closet and hoping it goes away, we will be much more pleased with what our stories grow up to be.

6. Start Marketing Your Book NOW!!

“‘The Vampire Romance series is about vampires and romance and…’ What?! Why aren’t you being more supportive?!”

Who cares that your book’s not even finished. You should be jamming out links to the first three chapters that you pounded out in the last week, just so you can get a jump on all the publishers who are probably DYING to get their hot little hands on your masterpiece. If you don’t know how to get those links out there or even how to set up your website, you need to reach out to someone ASAP. The professionals from Victorious are more than capable when it comes to running online campaigns and making your webpage become more visible online. In today’s industry, if you’re not making the most of your resources, you may not succeed and as we all know, being online is a huge resource. In fact, the best way to garner support for your writing project is to get someone to pay you to write the rest of it. Why even continue writing! Go and schlepp that bad boy right this instant!

Ahem. Or not.

Unless you are currently making out with Stephen King’s muse every Friday night, you are not in a position to publicize your unfinished novel as “the best thing that’s happened to literature since a short furry guy took his magic ring out for a long walk.” Perhaps, you could actually finish your book, edit it, re-edit it, lock in in a box for 3 months, then edit it again with the help of the most picky person you know and then share your brilliance with the world. Your story will be better for it and you will be focusing on what’s really important: writing…end editing.

7. Sabotage Yourself

Personal hygeine? Check. Three square meals? Check. Appropriate writing attire? Check.

Personal hygeine? Check. Three square meals? Check. Appropriate writing attire? Check.

You may think you’re being all “artsy” by talking about how much coffee you drink, how much alcohol you consume and how you haven’t taken a shower in a week. The truth is, you’re just not taking care of yourself. While Hunter S. Thompson might be able to write a brilliantly funny book on a bucketful of colored pills, most humans can’t. And the jury is still out on him in that regard.

As you’re writing your book, you need access to all the wonderful synapse power that you can produce. As artistic people, we often are so wrapped up in the ethereal element of creation that we put our physical health on the back burner. If you do this, you might be able to sustain for a little while, but not forever. Take care of yourself by:

  • Having a writing limit of 1-4 hours a day.
  • Eat breakfast.
  • Take a shower.
  • Take a walk.
  • Stop at 2 drinks. Better yet, stop at 0 drinks.
  • Talk to a real person.
  • Sing karaoke

There are a plethora of talented, wonderful writers who never got to experience the awesomeness of seeing their book on the shelves because of drugs, alcoholism and sickness. In fact, the quote that so many writers love, “Write drunk, edit sober” was penned by the brilliant Ernest Hemingway, who was also a raging alcoholic that died under sad circumstances. Respect your talent and yourself enough to take care of you while embroiled in the writing process. If you need some more reference on the writing process consider looking at writing my papers services to broader writing approaches. College essasys can be great for understanding writing structure. The world needs more wonderful work. That can’t happen if you’re not around to contribute.

You Have Time for Just One More:

Preorder MOTHER!

Mother: Tales of Love and Terror features captivating new tales from authors like SP Miskowski, John Langan, Brian Evenson, and Gemma Files. Order your copy before Sept. 15th and get a FREE ebook of The Monster Manifesto!

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